What Olympic Gold Medals Are Actually Made Of

Winning a gold medal in the Olympics is, for most athletes, the culmination of years, if not decades, of hard work and sacrifice. Once the medal is hung around an athlete's neck, that athlete's life will change forever. In addition to being recognized as completing the highest possible achievement in their sport, the athlete may find media attention and even lucrative endorsement deals. For some, their career prospects will open up (for example, an Olympic gold medal in a sport looks good on the resume of someone applying to be a college or professional coach in that sport).

But what about the gold medal itself? Is the .63-inch-diameter, .12-inch thick disc (per the Olympics website) colloquially called a "gold medal" actually made of gold? Or is it simply gold plated, the result of a mundane chemical process that can make an object look shiny and golden while actually containing a trifling amount of gold?

In fact, there is a decent amount of gold in an Olympic gold medal. It's just not solid gold. Not anymore, anyway.

Olympic gold medals contain a fraction of an ounce of gold

Olympic gold medals were, in fact, solid gold at one time, according to Athlon Sports. However, that hasn't been the case since the 1912 Olympics, and these days, as set forth in the official rules set forth by the International Olympic Committee, a gold medal must contain at least six grams (about .21 ounces) of gold, and the rest must be silver.

For the 2020 Summer Olympics to be held in Tokyo in 2021, gold medals will weigh 556 grams (just over one pound), and all but six of those grams will be pure silver, the rest pure gold, according to the Olympics website.

In case you were wondering, speaking strictly from the standpoint of precious metal trading, an Olympic gold medal is not worth much. According to JM Bullion, the spot price of gold, as of this writing, is $57.55 per gram, meaning the gold in the medal is worth about $345. The remaining 550 grams of silver, at $.83 per gram, according to Monex, would be worth about $456.

This year's Summer Olympics are scheduled for July 23-August 8.